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Former head of local automakers#8217; union honored by friends, family, co-workers

About 150 family, friends and union members gathered together late last month at Tabernacle Christian Center to honor the former president of Local 26 United Auto Workers.

Those giving accolades in his honor described Benford Hunter Jr. as having a goal to help people. He worked hard for employee benefits and displayed similar caring ways for employees and family members, and he did these things because it is who he is.

Suffolk Councilman Leroy Bennett, City Treasurer Ron Williams, and Vice Mayor Curtis Milteer were among those roasting Hunter, and Milteer read a proclamation by the City of Suffolk in his honor.

Hunter had served 26 years as Local 26 U.A.W. president. He was succeeded by Walter R. Parker Jr., who was voted in during the June election.

Belinda Evans, financial secretary-treasurer of the Local 26, said Hunter wanted to put the union back in the hands of the family that continued to build on the foundation started by earlier union leaders; therefore, she was glad that Parker was elected.

Evans said that union members had been wanting to recognize past presidents for years, and Parker came up with the idea of sponsoring an honors banquet.

“I just hope that this is just the beginning of honoring people who have been working at Planters and other shops as union members for a number of years,” she said.

Highlights of the program included the following:

Evans presented Certificates of Recognition to the wives or family members of the following past presidents:

From 1947-52, Robbie Riddick; 1952-57, Leroy Harris; 1957-58 Alfred Bailey who was vice president and took over as president at the death of Harris in 1957; 1958-71, Lock J. Parker; 1971-80, Walter Parker Sr.; and 1980-2006, Hunter.

Hunter also was named the president of all presidents of the Local 26 Union by union employees and presented an additional Certification of Recognition plaque by Parker.

Paquita Hunter, wife of Hunter, was presented an Honorable Mention Certificate by Evans for supporting her husband for 17 years, beginning in June 1989, when they were joined together as man and wife.

In addition, Mary Gray, president of the Retiree Activity Club, presented Hunter with a monetary gift on the club’s behalf.

Others on the program were Melvin L. Rawls, Henry Harris, Dorothy Parker, the Rev. Bernell Sherrod, Cheryl Drayton, Patricia Goodman, Bishop William P. Wiggins, and the Rev. H. Carlyle Church Jr.

Solos were rendered by Lydia Hunter, William Nichols and Debra H. Church.

Evans expressed a desire to locate past presidents, their wives or family members so that the Local 26 UAW Union can plan to recognize others at banquets in the future. She can be contacted at 539-9400 at ext. 10.